Your Discomfort Zone
Just as we all have our comfort zone, we all have our discomfort zone. It’s located between this rock and that hard place. Mine has been particularly discomfortable lately. (On a non-related side note, apparently ‘discomfortable’ is an actual word.)
My job took a turn for the crazy stressful right around when it went full time about 3 months ago. I’m happy that it’s gone full time; I’ve wanted this to happen for a long time now. And actually, it’s kinda sorta miraculous that this job I never exactly planned on applying for is now supporting my family, so I have a lot to feel thankful for.
At the same time, it’s brought a level of pressure with it that is decidedly unpleasant. Full time shouldn’t be that much different from part-time. Right? Other than more hours. Except it is so different, and so much more stressful. My client is giving me more work, which means his business is growing. Because I put in more time, his business is able to expand further. My boss is also giving me more work, which means our business is growing too. Because I put in more time, our company is also able to expand further. The stakes are steadily increasing from both directions; both companies are completely dependent on me, without exaggeration. I have become Atlas.
And as far as I can tell, neither of them realizes that this level of intensity is unsustainable for me. Probably because I’ve been sustaining it just fine. Until this past month. This month, the hairline stress fractures widened enough that everyone felt the shift.
This month, I was exhausted. This month, for the first time, my client told me I need to up my game. This month, for the first time, I had to tell my boss that my client wasn’t happy. My boss then told me that it is my job to figure out how to make the client happy again.
And he’s right. It is literally, exactly my job. I just have no idea if I can do it, because I am totally mentally and physically wrecked. I cannot string two more words together. I’m positive I have written the same sentences over and over again a thousand times. I no longer know how to keep my writing fresh and engaging on the same subjects again and again. I have nothing left to say.
Plus my neck is freaking killing me from sitting at a computer all day. I’m on my second desk and my third office chair with only minor physical improvements. Unlike a job I physically go to, I clock every minute when working at home. To put in 8 hours of work takes at least 10 actual hours, because I clock out to get up and grab some water or send a text message. An 8 hour day takes even longer than 10 hours when my brain is fried like it has been and I can’t concentrate.
I’m missing time with my family in the evenings. I regularly end up putting in a few hours on weekends, which has more than once led me to working 2 straight weeks with no days off. I am totally invested in and thrilled about the success of both of these companies, and at the same time feel trapped because I cannot see a way out of this. Their success means me continuing to sit at the computer for long hours every day. I don’t think my body can handle it. I have no idea what to do to support myself instead. And it’s so incredibly disheartening to find out the thing you’ve wanted and worked toward for years may not be the answer after all.
I even debate about spending the usual hour or so I put in on this blog every week because every second at the computer needs to count; every second adds up to more back pain. But ultimately, I do my weekly posts here because I need to have just one thing that is fun to write. JUST ONE.
I’m not pleased about ruining my body for another job. It’s still pretty ruined from construction. If I’m spending 12+ hours a day further destroying my back, I want it to be working on my own stuff. And that could really pay off big-time; I’m still pulling in monthly cash off the smut I published almost 2 years ago. If I put up a few more titles, I would be making just enough that I could cut down on some work hours maybe. So then I feel committed to finishing up those three or four nearly-done books I wrote for last year’s National Novel Writing Month. Except I can’t. Be. At. The. Computer. Another. Second.
And yet I have to push through all of this. Because I am committed to my job. And I don’t just have to maintain the course. I have to up my game.
And even yoga irritates me. Last spring or so I got a cold and skipped yoga for a few days. Then my shoulder was hurting and I thought I’d injured it so I skipped for a few weeks. Then summer came and I gave up on it entirely. Just this past few weeks I feel committed to my mat again– mostly in an effort to uncrick my body from long hours at a keyboard every day only to find that what used to be a physical and mental solace now feels like weird and awkward stretches.
This is the last straw; if the thing that used to ground you and bring you peace fails you, what the hell is left?
This moment– this moment when everything is falling on your head at once and you see zero solutions– this is your discomfort zone. There is no visible escape route. There are no clearly marked exits. You can’t move in any direction far enough to unkink your life, even though what you really need is a good long stretch.
So I’m cranky and on my yoga mat, angry at my body’s inability to do what was so easy just six months ago, and the teacher says “It’s easy, in this pose, to get frustrated with yourself, to think ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so weak.’ But you’re not weak. You’re getting stronger. If you were weak, you wouldn’t even be trying.”
Then my practice dissolves into tears, about the 23rd time I’ve been in tears this month. Only this was the good kind of cry, the kind that cleanses and centers and heals and isn’t just your work-related stress running around in circles chasing its own tail. And I thought, damn straight I can up my game. After all, wavering is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re finding your balance.
When life is discomfortable, every instinct tells us to fight that unease. But the truth is, the discomfort is essential; as my mom said the other day when I was venting to her, “Well, we don’t change positions until we’re uncomfortable.” And she’s right. I do know that. I know that release doesn’t come until after the stretch, I believe in the importance of pushing your comfort zone.
With NaNo just a few days away, I am more determined than ever to figure out how to carve a space in my rock and/or my hard place that’s large enough for me to fit comfortably. I know exactly the future I want. There will never be more hours in the day to get there. It’s up to me to find a way, and sometimes the only way out is through.